Monday 22 February 2021

Leach's Newest Jumpers

 I don't know who Mrs Leach was, or if she actually existed, but a lot of magazine titles were published under her name. A monthly magazine called Mrs Leach's Fancy Work Basket was published from 1886 until (according to the British Library catalogue) 1910. The first issue is headed "Practical Lessons in Art Needlework, Crewel and Crochet Work, Knitting and Embroidery". (The first volume of the Fancy Work Basket is available online from here, though be warned that it's nearly 500 pages.)  

By the 1920s, other titles had proliferated, including Leach's Home Needlework (from 1915 to 1929) and Leach's Sixpenny Knitting Series (1920 to 1935).    I wrote about two issues of the Sixpenny Knitting Series here and here.

Leach's Newest Jumpers

There were also other publications under the Leach's umbrella that weren't issued as part of a series.  One of these, Leach's Newest Jumpers, is in the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection and I have scanned it to create a pdf version for Guild members.  The jumpers in it were 'newest' in the early 1920s; the publication isn't dated, but I think it was published in 1921 or 22.  

It is always exciting when we can identify the pattern used to create an item in the Guild collection.  One of the favourite garments in the collection is a filet crochet  jumper with a design of butterflies worked on it, and we realised last year that pattern that was used to make it is one of the cover designs in Leach's Newest Jumpers. The yarn specified in the pattern is a mercerised cotton, though we have assumed that the one in the collection is in rayon. 

Butterfly filet crochet jumper

There are another ten patterns in the magazine - some knitted, some crocheted, some both.  The blue jumper on the cover is knitted in wool, though the colours suggested in the pattern are sulphur-yellow, with an edging of smoke-grey rabbit wool (angora) at neck and wrist. The description says that "Shetland shawl patterns are to the fore in the jumper world just now."  

It's not easy to see in the photo, but as well as the lacy basque, there is a panel of feather-and-fan just below the square neck, and the lower parts of the sleeves are done in the same stitch - the Shetland shawl pattern mentioned in the description.  It looks very effective, though I'm not sure how easy it would be to get an even tension over both stocking stitch and lace. 

The green jumper on the cover, with a "ribbed shoulder yoke", is also knitted in wool. The overall style is very unlike the others in the magazine, and unlike our usual impression of 1920s jumpers. The collar, cuffs and bottom edge are finished with a crocheted trimming in gold thread.  Although a crochet edging might look well on the collar (which is in single rib), I think on the bottom edge and the cuffs it would interfere with the stretchiness of the rib - and gold thread on a woolly jumper seems out of place.  

Of the other patterns, one I particularly noticed is partly knitted and partly crocheted, all in art. silk (artificial silk, or rayon).  

I think it's an attractive design, in a very 1920s kind of way, but I would hate to make it. Quite apart from the fact that I am not a crocheter, it requires making a lot of different pieces and sewing them together - I dislike any sewing up in my knitting, and prefer patterns that don't have any seams.   For this jumper, you have to knit seven strips of stocking stitch, shown in the diagram below. 

Then you make 6 strips of crochet.   (That's one fewer than the number of strips of knitting, because the crochet around the waist is only one strip, whereas for some reason the knitted basque is to be made in two pieces.)  Then they are all sewn together, and finally the crocheted strip around the bottom edge is added - mercifully this is crocheted directly onto the knitted basque rather than being made separately and then sewn on.   

One reason that I took special notice of this design is that it is very like a rayon jumper in the Guild collection, below.  

The crocheted strips with zigzags of bobbles are very similar indeed, but there are also some obvious differences.  The jumper in the collection has two extra pieces of crochet in the centre of the front and the back; an extra strip of knitting, with a narrow crochet edging, on the end of each sleeve; no crocheted edging on the bottom edge of the basque; and a drawstring waist.   Perhaps the similarity is just coincidental, and perhaps there was another pattern that is the original of the Guild jumper - there were many different needlecraft magazines being published at the time, and there might have been some overlap, deliberate or otherwise, between patterns in different publications.  But another possibility is that the person who made the jumper changed the pattern, perhaps to make it wider, with longer sleeves. And drawstring waists were so common in the 1920s that adding one is something that anyone following the pattern might have done. 

The final pattern that I have picked out is also a mixture of knitting and crochet, but much simpler.  I think it's an appealing design - it wouldn't look too odd today. 

The description is: "A simple model for the jumper novice who wishes to start upon an easy but none the less effective design.  Worked in jumper yarn [i.e. wool] of pale blue or champagne, it is indeed a covetable garment for holiday, home, and office wear. Note the square neck, the long sleeve, and the side opening in the crochet basque."   

For me, these are the most interesting designs in the magazine.  But members of the Guild can download the pdf of the whole magazine from the members' area of the website,  and decide for themselves. 

Monday 8 February 2021


During the past year, while we've been at home doing not very much, I have been adding to my small collection of knitting needle gauges.  I now have half a dozen that are in the shape of a beehive, and were made for the spinners Patons & Baldwins.  I have known for a long time that the beehive was originally the trademark of the Baldwins part of the company, and this post pulls together some of the history of the trademark. 

J. & J. Baldwin was a spinning company set up in Halifax in the late 18th century - in 1785, according to their later advertising.  At some time during the 19th century, the company started to specialise in knitting wool, and began to use the name 'Beehive' for some of their wools.   

The first mention of Beehive wools that I have found so far is in an ad in the Liverpool Mercury in 1879.  The ad is for a shop, Frisby, Dyke & Co., who had just had their first delivery of J. and J. Baldwin's wools, including "The REGISTERED BEEHIVE SOFT KNITTING WOOL, put up for convenience of purchase in 2 oz. hanks."   Towards the end of the 19th century, J. & J. Baldwin started to advertise directly to knitters, in various needlecraft magazines.  They began to use Beehive as the brand name for all their wools, and to use a trademark showing a beehive.

Ad in Weldon's Practical Needlework, 1890s

The Beehive trademark with two bees and two Bs (presumably for Baldwins and Beehive) varies a little.  In most versions, there seem to be roses on the left of the beehive, and thistles on the right. But in some versions, like the one shown below, there also seem to be shamrocks below the hive, and some rather blobby flowers to the right which might be intended to be daffodils.  The flowers in that case would represent the four countries of the United Kingdom.

From an ad in The Lady's World Fancy Work Book, 1910. 

In 1920, J. & J. Baldwin and Partners merged with John Paton, Son and Co. of Alloa, to form Patons & Baldwins.  (You might feel that there should be some apostrophes in there, and I'd agree with you, but the name of the company was generally written like that.)   John Paton and Son was also a long-established company, though not as old as J. & J. Baldwin.  Its trademark was a hand grasping a rose, and Patons and Baldwins continued to use both trademarks until World War 2.  

The panel above, showing the Paton's rose and a simplified Baldwin's beehive, is taken from a 1930s pattern leaflet.    Both trademarks continued to be used on pattern leaflets until paper shortages during World War 2 resulted in a change of design so that leaflets could be produced in a much smaller size.  

Now to needle gauges.  Most of my information on needle gauges in general comes from Sheila Williams' excellent book, The History of Knitting Pin Gauges.  

I have two metal beehive-shaped gauges, one shown above.  Sheila Williams suggests that it might have been made to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the merger of the two companies, since it shows both the Patons rose and the Baldwins beehive.  But as both trademarks were used together from 1920 until WW2, I think it could have been issued at any time during that period.  

It's hard to show the detail of the design of the other metal beehive gauge in a photo, because it is shiny, so I'm showing instead the drawing in a Patons & Baldwins brochure, The Red Book, published in 1935.  According to The History of Knitting Pin Gauges, beehive needle gauges were mentioned in an edition of Woolcraft in the 1920s, but I haven't tracked that down yet. This design of gauge may have been in use for a long time in the 1920s and 1930s - it is certainly much more commonly offered on eBay than the other metal beehive gauge.  

From 'The Red Book', 1935. 

Patons & Baldwins evidently found the beehive shape appropriate for needle gauges -  perhaps inspired by the bell-shaped gauges that were very common.  But they were also adopting the beehive as the trademark for the whole company, and Beehive as a brand name for the company's wools, and for other products such as knitting needles.      

From Stitchcraft, March 1936

The other beehive gauges in my little collection were produced after the end of World War 2.  A new Patons & Baldwins trademark began to appear in ads during 1946: it has 'P & B' within the outline of a beehive.  

From Home Notes, September 1946. 

Here's a clearer version of the trademark, used on a placard to be displayed in a yarn shop. 

There are two different designs of needle gauge in plastic that show this trademark.  One, which I think is the earlier form, is the same shape as the pre-war metal gauge, but smaller, and measures the same range of needle sizes.   

 I think this gauge may date from the late 1940s, when the new trademark was first introduced.  

The other plastic gauge is smaller still, and the smallest size of needle that it measures is size 14 (2mm.).  This is also the smallest size measured by modern gauges, and is the finest knitting needle size commonly sold.  I would guess that this gauge dates from the 1950s. 

Those are the six beehive needle gauges that I have in my own collection - the two metal ones, and two each of the plastic designs.  Another object in the shape of the Patons & Baldwins beehive was introduced in the late 1940s - the Beehive wool holder. 

I wrote a post about the wool holder here.  The design was registered in 1948, and was probably in production for many years after that.  It has a needle gauge in the base, but I don't have one in my own collection, mainly because I'm only collecting gauges which  are principally needle gauges and not something else, like a knitting needle box. (Also, beehive wool holders are quite expensive - they are attractive objects, and evidently a lot of knitters would like to have one.)   The wool holder in the photo is in the collection of the Knitting & Crochet Guild.    

In the mid 1960s,  Patons & Baldwins changed their image again, and dropped the Baldwins name from their advertising and pattern leaflets.  But the beehive continued to be used as the Patons trademark.  Below, you can see it on a pattern leaflet with a Mary Quant design, published in 1965.    

Patons leaflet 9531

 Patons still uses the beehive as the company trademark today.  I think it's remarkable that the beehive symbol on the label of every ball of Patons yarn has been used in its various forms since the 19th century.  And it commemorates a company founded more than two hundred years ago.  That's a lot of history in my beehive needle gauges.  

Added in July 2023:

I have just been scanning "Knitting from A to Z", a booklet published by Patons & Baldwins in 1952, with information and advice for knitters, as well as illustrations of many of the P&B knitting patterns that were current at that time.  Under G for Gauge appears an illustration of a Beehive needle gauge: 

The gauge shown in the booklet must have been the one that was on sale in 1952, and matches the plastic gauge shown above in red and green.  The smaller plastic beehive gauge (shown above in pink and pastel green) must have been produced later, though I'd guess still on the 1950s.   

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